By Renzo Adler
Hobby magazines have been devoured by modelers and otakus for decades, with Hobby Japan being the most famous of them. During the mid 80s up to the early 00s, there was a rise in publications that displayed more in depth and unusual creations by and for maniac modelers. Publications such as B-Club, Hobby Japan EX, SMH (Sensational Model & Hobby) and DDD (Dengeki Dabster Department Store) were home to the likes of Yasushi Nirasawa, Takayuki Takeya, and other artists that took character sculpting to the next level. These were creations conjured by minds that were voraciously consuming OVA’s and sci-fi movies on their new VHS players. They embodied baroque details with subject matter tied to gritty sci-fi, the fantastical, and a heavy dose of hyper sexulization. This style of publication has fallen to the wayside over the years, until now. Published by Genkosha, Sculptors is a mook (Japanese portmanteau for book and magazine) that seeks to revive the detailed and bizarre creature designs and machines of SMH and DDD, but with a stronger focus on the craft and creation.
Sculptors, simply enough, is a collection of sculptors and their creations. This includes Takayuki Takeya, Shinzen Takeuchi, Tatsuhiro Fujiwara and many more exhibiting their works along with tutorials and step-by-step guides for how some of these creations were made. Though while the title is Sculptors, it easily could have been Creature as the bulk of the pages are taken up by various odd monsters and animals. Yuki Morita’s work depicts realistically sculpted snakes and tigers, but with impossible colors and poses, creating an effect that is part National Geographic and part cand-colored psychedelia. Akishi Ueda’s monsters feel reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, while Yuji Yokokura’s creation is a puzzling orb comprised of hairless Sphynx Cats.
HP Lovecraft’s world of xenophobic tinged horror has been an influence on Japanese artists and writers from decades, especially during the 1980s thanks to the novels of Hideyuki Kikuchi (Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D) and Hobby Japan importing pen and paper RPGs such as Call of Cthulhu to Japan. Sculptors makes it clear that Lovecraft’s (racism fueled) dread and creatures are influential to Japanese creators to this day with a feature on ArcLight Model’s Cthulhu Evolution series in which artists take their own approach to HP Lovecraft’s creatures. Ryu Oyama’s Cthulhu is covered in bulbous growths, with sinewy muscles and and looming wings while Akao’s interpretation turns the Elder God into an impish and chubby and diminutive deity, with a round body like an infant, but elongated bony hands like an old man. Takayuki Takeya departs from the familiar imagery of an octopus shaped god, by creating a Cthulhu that looks more like a skull tearing itself from out of an octopus, with colossal undulating wings and a sickly greyish pink hue. Takeya even provides a step-by-step walkthrough of how he was able to make an impossible horror into a reality. The late great HR Giger also took influence from Lovecraft (it was his portfolio, Necronomicon, that caught the eye of Dan O’Bannon, the co-writer of Alien), and Sculptors makes that connection with a jaunt over to the Giger Museum in Gruyere Switzerland and the Deutsche Kinematek in Berlin to see the original Alien suit.
As far as downside goes, this being a Japanese language publication, there’s not exactly an abundance of English text. For English readers, Sculptors is an artbook first and foremost. Unlike SMH and other similar magazines of yore, Sculptors doesn’t offer much outside it’s focus on figurines and statues. There’s a brief feature on the Son of Monsterpalooza convention, the aforementioned Giger segment, and a look at the costumes of The Predator, but beyond that is has nothing like the segments SMH used run (movie reviews, guest columns, short comics). Sculptors is a little more singular in this purpose, which to some might be more of a strong point than a detraction.
Despite the language barrier, if you’re a fan of hands-on creature rendering, detailed sci-fi machines, or looking for some aesthetic food for thought, Sculptors is definitely worth checking out. This is the first issue, though a release date for a second on is TBA.